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Employment contracts may be job handcuffs

Leaving a job for a better venture is a dream come true. But, as with other experiences, a worker's past may haunt this event. Employment contracts signed years earlier may restrict getting a job with a new employer or competitor.

During the first days of employment, the new prospect may have signed an employment contract along with a pile of other documents. These contracts often contain non-competition agreements restricting work for a competitor or another employer in the industry for a certain time or geographic radius.

It is important to obtain any agreements after they are executed. If there is any doubt about whether an employment contract or non-competition agreement was signed, an employee should contact their human resources department and ask for copies.

Non-competition agreements likely require notice to a current employer about the new hire.

Being forthcoming about new employment, however, helps avoid legal and professional difficulties and protects an employee's reputation.

Other steps can also help prevent these problems. A boss should first be informed about the job offer during a scheduled in-person meeting or, if this cannot be arranged, a telephone conversation. Co-workers should be told only after this meeting.

A departing worker should have a resignation letter prepared and brought to this meeting because the business may require one. It needs to be short and courteous, especially if the employee has a legal claim. The document should contain the employee's name, position and last work day.

Two weeks' notice is recommended, but a worker should not be surprised if they are asked to leave immediately. This often occurs if they are leaving to work for a competitor. Before providing notice, an employee should have their personal documents and photographs removed from any employer-provided devices.

Soon-to-be departing employees must keep going to work and leaving on time, completing assignments, and working diligently after notice is given. Bad-mouthing employers and co-workers will back-fire.

An attorney can help review and draft employment contracts. They can also provide guidance on an employee's options and rights when they look for a new job.

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